New York State has just created access to a “living wage”, I suppose, for those who are employed in the fast food industry. Those jobs are completely justified in bearing a fair wage such as 15 dollars per hour. I wish more power to all those people who look to that type of employment for making a living. Frankly, many people who do that work should earn even more, in my opinion. Especially, the people who need to engage with the public; those cashiers and order-takers and drive-thru folks. They often bear the burden of frequently rude customers and work in stressful environments. I think those in the retail industry also deserve higher wages for similar work they perform unassumingly everyday.
You probably think I am about to make the case that direct support professionals should be at equal wage level to fast food workers and retail clerks. Especially as we see the NY State legislature, among others in the country, raise the minimum wage for those sectors. I disagree whole heartedly.
Direct support professionals should NEVER be in a category with fast food workers and retail workers. Never. I say this with great respect to those in that are employed in that field. My point is that the profession of direct support is not a JOB. Direct support is a profession and professions automatically demand fair and living salaries. Professionals are developed, educated and expected to perform at a level of great demand thus should be compensated for that effort.
My concern is that advocates for direct support professionals and direct support professionals will feed into the notion that direct support pay should be increased and that we should be in equal footing with the fast food industry. Do not be fooled. Direct support involves complex skills, a code of ethical conduct and a knowledge base of dizzying proportions. Of course compensation should greatly improve.
Direct support is not a job. It never has been. Sadly, our society sees it as an entry-level job. A stepping stone type of work that can set you forth to other careers like social work or nursing etc.. This is precisely the reason we will not see anything but the continued decrease in wages for direct support professionals and the continued silly game of demanding a few dollars more for the "job" of direct support.
The rally cry we need to set forth for the direct support professional wage crisis is this. All of us reading, probably and mostly direct support allies, need to start having serious and much more frequent conversations with the legislators, policy makers and insurance companies who will ultimately be able to create rates and wage policies that are commensurate with a profession, NOT A JOB!
Organizations like the NationalAlliance for Direct Support Professionals need many, many people to help with this effort and campaign. We should not get caught up with the “smoke-screen” of this fast food wage news. Good for them. All of us should rally to help the world understand that direct support is a rewarding profession. When was the last time you heard about dentists, doctors, lawyers or nurses needing to plea and rally for a living wage? You won't. They are recognized as valuable professional careers.
So, don’t get caught up in the hype. Direct support is the next great profession! If we see the path other professions, like nursing and social work, have taken, we are coming world!
I have a dream that we will very soon see our day of professional wages.